Jordan Rico was humming on the mound and Dos Pueblos was running wild on the base paths in Friday’s CIF-SS Division 3 baseball playoff opener against St. Bonaventure.
The Chargers stole nine bases, while Rico struck out seven in six strong innings and combined with Kellan Montgomery on a two-hitter in a 6-0 victory at Scott O’Leary Field.
“He did what he’s done all season,” DP coach George Hedricks said about Rico’s performance. “I don’t think there’s been a game this year that Jordan hasn’t gone out and given us a chance to win.”
The victory sends DP (18-11) to a second-round matchup at Palm Desert on Tuesday.
Hedricks said he had no hesitation about giving the ball to the left-handed senior Rico for the playoff opener.
“Jordan’s started many games for us this year,” he said. “We’re trying to be strategic going into the playoffs, too.”
Rico leads the Chargers with six wins and is second on the staff in ERA.
Against the Seraphs (7-21), he gave up a two-out double in the third and a two-out single in the fifth. He didn’t walk a batter.
“There’s nothing Jordan hasn’t done for us to make us feel confident starting him in a playoff game,” Hedricks said.
“I just trust the pitch calling and go out there and do what I usually do, and usually it works out,” Rico said. “I felt really good and had a good feel for all my pitches.”
Montgomery pitched a perfect seventh, striking out the last two batters.
The Chargers turned their baserunners loose against St. Bonaventure.
Two steals by Ethan Rodriguez in the fifth set up the first run against St. Bonaventure’s strong starting pitcher, J.D. Goodcase. After swiping third, Rodriguez scored on Gino Darke’s sacrifice fly to right field.
“That was awesome,” Rico said of the run. “It doesn’t just get me going, it got the whole team going. You saw our energy really pick up and then we put up those five runs.”
Hedricks said Darke was hitting the ball well in the last games of Channel League play. He ripped a two-run double down the third-base line to complete the scoring in the sixth inning.
“He’s kind of hidden a little bit down in the order (eighth) for a guy with his kind of power and ability,” the coach said. “He’s got a ton of leverage with his height.”
Hedricks agreed with Rico that when Darke broke the scoreless game, it took a load of pressure off the team.
“You could see everybody kind of relax,” he said. “And when they play relaxed, they play aggressive. We’re stealing bases, and that’s when we’ve been at our best.”
The Chargers stole five bases against two Seraph relievers during a five-run sixth inning that put the game away.
Joe Talarico started the sixth-inning eruption with a one-out single to right. Montgomery followed with a single and the pair pulled off a double steal. Jesse DiMaggio hit a bloop single to left field to score Talarico for the second run.
St. Bonaventure brought in its third pitcher, and DiMaggio and Montgomery executed a double steal, with Montgomery scoring to make it 3-0.
Josh Brennan hit a high chopper for an infield single and Rodriguez followed with a single to right, scoring DiMaggio for the fourth run. Brennan stole second before Drake smashed his two-run double.
Hedricks credited assistant coach, former Charger star and Nebraska Cornhusker Steven Reveles for improving the running game.
“He preaches the aggressiveness on the bases and brings a lot to the table with his experience,” Hedricks said. “When we brought Steven into the program as a coach, the No. 1 thing I told him was, ‘We don’t run good enough in this program. We’ve struggled with it for years.’
“And ever since he’s been here, you’ve seen us run more and more. He came and said, ‘You guys got to be more confident and more aggressive on the bases.’
“In the sixth inning you saw it. Once they got loose and relaxed a little bit, man, we were running all over.”